AFCON 2021 favourites Senegal started their Group B campaign with a controversial 1-0 win over Zimbabwe at the Bafoussam Omnisport Stadium Kouekong.
Having been hit by a COVID-19 surge in their camp days to their AFCON opener against Zimbabwe, Senegal were without Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy and Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly, among others. The Teranga Lions started with QPR goalkeeper Seny Dieng in goal, and Pape Abdou Cisse started in defense.
The number one ranked team in Africa were quickly on the front foot as they sought to break down the Warriors’ defence, but a combination of missed opportunities and good defending saw them fail to open the scoring. Liverpool ace Sadio Mane was one of the biggest culprits for the Senegalese, as he showed an uncharacteristic wastefulness in possession and hesitation in front of goal.
As the game wore on, Senegal struggled to break down the Zimbabweans and were almost caught on the break themselves by the Knowledge Musona-led Warriors.
Late in the second half, Senegal almost found themselves behind after a low free kick was fizzed in by Musona, but Teenage Adebe was unable to connect properly and could only deflect the ball into the grateful arms of Senegalese goalkeeper Dieng.
With the game looking set to end in a stalemate, the game-changing moment was decided by Guatemalan referee Mario Escobar.
In the last of four added minutes, the referee determined that midfielder Kelvin Madzongwe had blocked a shot with his arm in the box, and he immediately pointed to the spot. After a VAR review, his decision was confirmed to be indeed correct.
Sadio Mane stepped up and sent goalkeeper Petros Mhari the wrong way with a powerfully struck penalty to score his 27th goal for Senegal and open his account at the 2021 AFCON with the last kick of the game.
Like AFCON hosts Cameroon on the opening day, Senegal needed a penalty to dispatch their opponents.